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Comments (12) Posted 09.01.06 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Billy Collins

"Design" (1995)


I pour a coating of salt on the table
and make a circle in it with my finger.
This is the cycle of life
I say to no one.
This is the wheel of fortune,
the Arctic Circle.
This is the ring of Kerry
and the white rose of Tralee
I say to the ghosts of my family,
the dead fathers,
the aunt who drowned,
my unborn brothers and sisters,
my unborn children.
This is the sun with its glittering spokes
and the bitter moon.
This is the absolute circle of geometry
I say to the crack in the wall,
to the birds who cross the window.
This is the wheel I just invented
to roll through the rest of my life
I say
touching my finger to my tongue.

Special permission has been granted by the author for Design Observer to reprint this poem online. We also thank the Poetry Foundation. "Design" is from The Art of Drowning. Copyright © 1995 by Billy Collins and University of Pittsburgh Press.



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Comments (12)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT >>

Tasty!

R/
Joe Moran
09.01.06 at 08:51

There's also a much better poem of the same title by Robert Frost.
Harry
09.02.06 at 03:44

The Robert Frost poem "Design" was published on Design Observer here.
William Drenttel
09.02.06 at 10:19

Billy Collins is a genius. it may not be design related, but I particularly enjoy his ode to mom... http://www.webdelsol.com/Five_Points/issues/v7n1/collins.htm
Jules
09.02.06 at 02:57

Before I misquote him too terribly, I'll just highly recommend listening to his interviews with Terry Gross on Fresh Air from 2001.

http://freshair.npr.org

After 9/11 when others were saying irony is dead, he said he's most afraid metaphor is dead, and that's a shame because we need metaphor in order to understand. . . oops there I go probably misquoting.



Angela Norwood
09.02.06 at 09:13

Trivia Dept: Billy's married to an architect who used to work for me.
john massengale
09.05.06 at 02:51

I love it - everyone interprets design / art differently... That's exactly what makes it great!
Ryan
09.06.06 at 07:16

That poem should have been called 'marketing'

Awesome
zs
09.07.06 at 09:34

This is an awareness of the continuous cycle of life. This a great poem for younger people who believe they invented the wheel.
Faceta Armstrong
09.09.06 at 10:12

What a wonderful piece of poetry. Aside from the title of the piece (which has its own set of references), poets are truly designers who evoke meaning through the manipulation of words. Very rich and layered.
Ryan Crouchman
09.13.06 at 09:55

One of my favorite poems
Katey Nicosia
09.17.06 at 07:36

Mr. Massengale,

So? Are you going to spill the beans?

Respectfully,
Joe Moran
09.17.06 at 08:26


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William “Billy” Collins, is an American poet. He served two terms as the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003, and has published many books including: Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (2002) and Ballistics (2008)
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